09TBILISI1289, GEORGIA: PATRIARCH DISCUSSES CHURCH DELEGATION TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1289 2009-07-10 13:39 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4305
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1289/01 1911339
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 101339Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1892
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001289 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/09/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KIRF RU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: PATRIARCH DISCUSSES CHURCH DELEGATION TO 
MOSCOW 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  The Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox 
Church (GOC), Ilia II discussed relations between Russia and 
Georgia, including relations between the Russian Orthodox 
Church (ROC) and GOC over dinner with the Ambassador on July 
7.  Former Georgian Ambassador to Moscow Zurab Abashidze and 
Bishop Gerasime (Head of GOC's Foreign Relations) briefed the 
Ambassador on their recent trip to Moscow, including meetings 
with ROC Patriarch Kirill and Russian DFM Karasin.  All were 
generally pleased with the results of the trip but harbored 
no illusions as to the long road ahead to normalize relations 
and restore Georgia's territorial integrity.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  The church-led delegation to Moscow, which 
was undoubtedly approved by the GoG, appears to have made 
some progress in opening a semi-official back channel.  The 
trip highlights the critical role the GOC plays in Georgian 
politics and foreign relations.  Ilia II was in good spirits 
though his health appears to be worsening.  Symptoms of 
Parkinson's disease were apparent and clearly concerned his 
entourage.  The Patriarch is scheduled to fly to Germany for 
the third time in the past two years for "recovery" in the 
near future.  End Comment. 
 
Kirill Cordial, Constructive - Karasin Less So 
 
3.  (C)  Abashidze and Gerasime said their discussions with 
Patriarch Kirill were productive.  Gerasime and Abashidze 
explained to Kirill that no Georgian leader could ever 
tolerate the dismemberment of Georgia.  Kirill acknowledged 
this fact and agreed that the GOC had sole ecumenical 
jurisdiction over both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  Kirill 
also agreed upon the need to protect GOC property and sites 
in both the occupied territories.  Kirill stressed the need 
for cooperation and stated that ROC-GOC relations should not 
be held hostage to political events.  Kirill agreed that a 
meeting between Patriarchs, possibly to commemorate/celebrate 
the opening of the Zemo Larsi-Kazbegi checkpoint on the 
Georgian/Russian border, was a good idea.  Kirill suggested 
the meeting culd take place in Vladikavkaz, Kazbegi or both. 
 As a further sign of good intentions in trying to mend ties 
between Orthodox communities, the ROC will receive a group of 
Georgian pilgrims in Nizhni Novgorod who will arrive by 
direct charter from Tbilisi. 
 
4.  (C)  According to Abashidze and Gerasime, the meeting 
with DFM Karasin was less productive.  Karasin bristled at 
the suggestion from Abashidze and Gerasime that Swiss 
representatives should be present to provide a neutral third 
party observer during meetings between Russian and Georgian 
officials.  This was discussed specifically in the context of 
negotiation necessary to reopen the Larsi checkpoint. 
Karasin said that any discussion must be in bilateral or in 
existing multilateral formats, despite lack of diplomatic 
relations between Georgia and Russia.  Karasin said that the 
Geneva talks were productive but decried what he described as 
the harsh, personal tone of many of the meetings.  Karasin 
stated that the format and talks should continue.  Karasin 
suggested the possibility of re-establishing formal 
diplomatic relations, a proposal rejected by both Abashidze 
and Gerasime as impossible as long as Russia insisted on 
having three embassies in Georgia. 
 
Patriarch Opines 
 
5.  (C)  The Patriarch appeared pleased with the results of 
Qthe delegation's visit and noted that the process of 
reconciliation would be long.  The Patriarch praised U.S. 
efforts to engage Russia but noted that "it is impossible to 
change Putin".  The Patriarch stated that Russian foreign 
policy was short-sighted and focused only on the near term. 
He said he thought Russian recognition of Abkhazia and South 
Ossetia would only create problems in the North Caucasus and 
that Russia's desire to control the "near-abroad" worsened 
its own internal problems.  The Patriarch said that Russian 
policy only hurt Russian interests though acknowledged that 
the Caucasus were a painful and sensitive issue for Russians. 
 Despite the difficulties, the Patriarch expressed some hope 
that President Medvedev would pursue a different course than 
Putin.  The Patriarch recalled that before meeting Medvedev 
after the funeral of former Patriarch Alexei II, he was given 
a hard line text of talking points that Medvedev was supposed 
to follow during their meeting.  Instead, Medvedev departed 
from the text and was warm, understanding and engaging.  The 
Patriarch said that he had the impression that hard-liners, 
led by Putin, were encircling Medvedev to limit his actions 
and effectiveness.  The Patriarch also described how he told 
Medvedev in no uncertain terms that Saakashvili's removal or 
resignation would solve absolutely zero problems between 
 &#x
000A;TBILISI 00001289  002 OF 002 
 
 
Georgia and Russia. 
TEFFT

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